Communication Builds Our Community

Friday Night Public Reception to Begin Week of "Envisioned" Planning

Lake Wales Envisioned Expected to Transform Expectations for Future Growth in Area

Doubts about the future of Lake Wales will be met with inspiration Friday night as a special opening reception for "Charette Week" will take place downtown from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. The public is invited.

The casual "come-and-go event" will be hosted by the planning team of Dover, Kohl & Partners, who will share information about the busy week of hands-on planning that will shape the city's future through a project called "Lake Wales Envisioned."

A charette is a small cart once used to collect student essays. Today the term reflects the collection of ideas.

The charette will include plenty of opportunities for residents to contribute their ideas and suggestions.

Organizers are hoping that hundreds of interested or curious citizens come out to see and hear about what's being discussed, adding their own ideas and suggestions to the very public process.

"One of the great things about "designing in public" is that everybody learns," said DK&P principal Victor Dover of the process. "You'll know more about what's important to others in your community, you'll find out about town planning ideas that have proven to work, you'll be more sensitive to your town's history, and maybe more protective of it."

A lighted tent is being erected in the parking lot at the corner of Stuart Avenue and Scenic Highway to accommodate the speakers, displays, and guests Friday evening. That event is hosted by Lake Wales Main Street.

Four planning firms are involved in the process. DK&P are town planners. Inspire Placemaking will address land use and parks, Kittelson and Associates will consider transportation issues, and Exum Associates will examine environmental issues.

The process will move indoors on Saturday as planners and citizens gather at the James Austin Center for a "hands on" planning session to exchange ideas over maps and charts.

Sunday through Wednesday the planning team will host "open design studios," first at 253 East Stuart Avenue on Sunday afternoon, then for three days at the Lake Wales Woman's Club at 275 East Park Avenue.

A special Monday night on-line event is scheduled for those unable to travel for the other activities. Pre-registration is encouraged.

The goal of the Envisioned process is nothing less than a reimagining of a future that many fear will consist of miles of sprawling subdivisions and traffic congestion.

The city commission has approved a set of "aspirations" that will be the hoped-for results of the Envisioned effort.

They include:

• We will seek to assemble an enduring green network of open spaces and conservation lands.

• We will partner with landowners, investors, and the community to encourage input, collaboration, and respect property rights.

• We will make infill development and revitalization a priority.

• We will emphasize economic prosperity by increasing property values through quality development.

• We will facilitate employment opportunities by supporting a mix of land uses and industries.

• We will seek to make traditional neighborhoods with walkable, connected streets that create a high-quality public realm the norm.

• We will discourage conventional urban sprawl as defined in Florida Statutes Chapter 163.

• We will grow a livable transportation network by implementing the Lake Wales Mobility Plan and including context-sensitive Complete Streets.

This list of initial aspirations was developed based on input gathered from community members, stakeholders and public officials during the 2022 Land Use Study, and the general understanding and purpose of the Lake Wales Envisioned plan. These initial aspirations were adopted by resolution of the City Commission in January 2023, and will be reviewed, refined and further detailed with community feedback throughout the Lake Wales Envisioned process.

Envisioned is funded by the City of Lake Wales, which will consider adopting the resulting proposals to direct inevitable growth into desirable forms.

Planners hope to introduce residents to several principles that may create more desirable growth, creating standards that guide the creation of walkable, attractive neighborhoods.

A packed-house presentation at Bok Tower Gardens last month shared concepts of "new urbanism" that have achieved stunning results in various new developments. Planners envision streets as "rooms" with homes as the walls and tree canopies as the ceilings, making them attractive, human-scale spaces.

In contrast to recent development styles that result in streets lined with garages, driveways, and parked cars, the standards adopted elsewhere resulted in rear garages, attractive streets lined with greenery, and two and three-story homes with porches facing wide sidewalks.

The Lake Wales Envisioned website offers much additional information about the process, including videos.


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